Cotton Xenomorph is a new literary journal produced with the mission to showcase new, and ecstatic art while reducing language of oppression in our community. We are dedicated to uplifting new and established voices while engaging in thoughtful conversation around social justice.

Illiteracy

By Maggie Graber

Say I’m waking up, my oldest eyelids
opening. Say there’s a Swedish flag

filtering sunlight, the sounds of traffic
muffled by distance and panes of glass.

Say my hips are hurting, and I don’t know
how to heal. Say it’s due to backpacking. Say

it’s because I have trouble remembering
what happened to you, the violence, and I’m

not sure how to talk about it. Sometimes
life feels like walking up an invisible staircase

where every step is quicksand. Some days
it’s an aloe plant on an overlooked shelf—

what’s forgiving in plain view. What percentage
of reality do you think is the chunk we don’t see?

It’s not that I lied when I said I don’t want to have sex
with men, more like I’m not sure which ‘I’

was holding the microphone. Sometimes I slip
into fantasies, a slice of time cut from the cake of what is.

It’s not that I’m sad, just that death always lurks
somewhere. My left hip bone grates against my skeleton

how teeth grind together until they disappear, the self
eroding under the eyes. I want a tattoo of flowers

on my inner right bicep, the West coastline of my body,
its endishness, a self-defined limit where something still grows.

This year I’m relearning how to breathe, gardening
the dark soil of listening. This is my spine’s alignment. This

is the vision of your fingers moving inside me. This is my hip
still hurting, Jim Morrision singing in a bar, a wreath of mushrooms

circling a wreath of evergreen needles. This is me telling myself
if I notice enough details, I’ll be let into heaven.

I have the patience of naked winter trees, but all the signs
are written in languages I can’t read.


Maggie Graber is a poet from the Midwest. She holds degrees from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Indiana University, and she's been the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Louisville Review, Southern Indiana Review, Hobart, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, pacificREVIEW, Rogue Agent, The Adroit Journal, Mortar Magazine, and elsewhere. Find her online at www.maggiegraber.com.

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